understanding the horse eye

The horse’s eye is our window

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

Calm horse, calm eye

The horse’s eye is a key to our understanding him. Horses have beautiful, large and expressive eyes and their eyes are an open window into their mood and thinking. The horse’s eye will show us immediately whether he is nervous, anxious, angry or just content to be with us. He can’t hide this. A horse is very open about his emotions. It is up to us to be observant and notice this because our horse is trying to tell us something about how he is feeling. This very placid horse is just looking at us without much of anything else on his mind. He is paying attention but not trying too hard. His eye is lovely.

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

I see more than you do!

This horse’s eye is quite plainly asking, “Can’t you see I’m a bit nervous?” Something has caught his attention and he is definitely becoming concerned about it. With his head held high he is seeing much farther than you and over a wider area, including behind himself. Now is the time for a person to reassure him before he reacts. Often all that is needed is to have him return his attention to us and to turn his eye back to us.

Another thing to keep in mind is remembering how far a horse’s eye can see when we are mounted! With their head up, most horses are considerably taller than we are and are seeing much farther and wider than we do.  When we are working around a horse in a barn and his head suddenly goes up, he is seeing all or almost all the whole barn area and can see across the tops of stalls and out windows and we have no idea what is concerning him. When we are mounted, horses’ long necks allow them to see around a corner before we get there and they may be startled by something we haven’t even seen yet. Their depth perception is not particularly good and a puddle in a road can look very deep and may require some patient urging to go through. Sudden movements of any kind can startle them, which can make riding on a windy day quite exciting. A horse is just naturally mistrustful about almost anything new and this is only natural considering his history is that of a prey animal who lived by his wits and speed.

We need to remember that horses can see behind themselves but not directly in front. Mother Nature gave them this ability so they could get a head start on a predator. However, a horse has to turn his head very slightly to see right in front. It’s a very interesting fact, I think. If you want to pet your horse in the center area between his eyes, he will lose sight of your hand a short ways before you touch him there. Of course, if he trusts you he won’t move.

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

Moments of closeness

I greet all my horses with a pat and/or rub between the eyes and if they start off being shy about this they soon seem to like it. Treats are always helpful 😉

Posted by JGC in Horse body language, Understanding horses, 6 comments